I’ve long been skeptical that a simple and outright selection for IQ, full stop, is necessarily eugenic, at least in the sense of contributing to a society’s overall stability. IQ is a multidimensional trait, which can be parsed out at least into the distinct categories of visuospatial, mathematical, and verbal IQ. It is not necessarily the case that the behavioral regularities associated with these expressions of intelligence are equivalent, and by that unlikely that they have equivalent kinds of life strategies and outcomes. Given this, I will forward some speculations about the intelligence constitution of societies brought about by the ongoing discussion of cities as IQ shredders. I note the highly tentative nature of these hypotheses, but I suspect that delving into distinct IQ and psychological profiles and the selection thereof is the beginning of an answer to the IQ shredder paradox.
What initially roused my suspicion to the claim that cities are dysgenic for the societies they are attached to is that increasing urbanization was coincidental to Western Europe’s civilizational, and ergo genetic, rise. The cities do effect an overall depression of fertility, at least with respect to those living in more rural areas. This means that the civilizing pressure of Malthus is not some universal force which affects each individual an equal degree; Malthusian pressure exists as the summation of pressures affecting each individual’s reproductive success. So much as society has unequal uses for different psychological profiles, those which are oversupplied relative Darwinian demand will tend to be consistently selected out, while those which fulfill some niche shall be genetically promoted.
Which kinds of people are most likely to end up in city centers? Those which most crucially depend upon interpersonal exchange for their livelihood, which includes those of a high verbal acumen and criminals. City as “criminal shredder” seems not so bad, but what of verbal intelligence? Do we not lose something integral if verbal intelligence is depressed in the population by cities’ selection effects? There appears a number of reasons why this may be a good thing.
First, I suspect there is a positive correlation between verbal intelligence and fanaticism. History is replete with characters of high charisma honed by high verbal IQ engaging in populist uprisings of political and religious character (and one questions the exact point of discontinuity between the religious and the political). In other words, there is a tendency for high verbal IQ (let’s call them “sophists” for short) to produce systems of power and influence, which if uncontrolled by a sovereign proves destabilizing as institutions vie for power. Per Moldbug’s law of power, high asymmetry proves most stable; so in this case, high asymmetry of sophistical powers allows those powers (and almost all power is sophistical in nature) to put forth less effort into managing and beating down nascent sophistical attempts for power.
Second, there is the historical example of the Catholic Church’s clerical and monastic orders, which enforced virtual poverty and abstinence, simultaneously making those of non-royal descent but high sophistical prowess dependent on the royal and ecclesiastical purse and unlikely to reproduce, bolstering the power of these institutions and helping to secure their ideological longevity.
In short, there is the potential that the tendency for cities to shred sophists gives up a little IQ growth to clear the way for the more useful, and less troublesome, kinds of IQ such as the visuospatial and mathematical, which rarely direct themselves to use the weapons they actually build.
Of course my hypothesis here depends upon empirical verification which is yet unavailable. While there is evidence suggesting sophists are most attracted to city centers, and resultantly have lower rates of fertility, this isn’t demonstrated beyond doubt. Likewise, it predicts we would tend to find high verbal IQ in nobility, but assessing this requires a number of studies which we may not yet be able to perform (but I do have some ideas to this end). Clark’s The Son Also Rises, which charts the diffusion of names of noble lineage and their outcomes suggests that, in the age which saw the relaxing of pressures to select against sophism, their profusion indicates nobility were sophist-heavy. Furthermore, it assumes high verbal IQ, as an outlying trait, translates to occupations in the city.
Even if the specifics of my hypothesis are incorrect, analyzing the other eugenic traits of cities and other reproductive (or not) centers of society is crucial to understanding the correlation between norms and social order.